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Even as All G20 Countries Except U.S. Affirm Paris Deal, Nations Pour $72B a Year into Fossil Fuels

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On Saturday, world leaders broke with the United States on climate change and reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which they called “irreversible.” The final joint statement from the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, took the unusual step of acknowledging the U.S. rejection of the Paris deal while reiterating the rest of the world’s support for the landmark climate agreement. Meanwhile, a group of environmental organizations have released a new report claiming G20 governments provide an average of $72 billion per year in public finance for fossil fuels—nearly four times as much as they provide for clean energy. The report is titled “Talk is Cheap: How G20 Governments Are Financing Climate Disaster.” We speak to the report’s lead author, Alex Doukas, senior campaigner at Oil Change International.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, on Saturday, world leaders broke with the United States on climate change and reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which they called, quote, “irreversible.” The final joint statement from the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, took the unusual step of acknowledging the U.S. rejection of the Paris deal while reiterating the rest of the world’s support for the landmark climate agreement.

AMY GOODMAN: The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she “deplored” the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris accord. And British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “dismayed” by Trump’s decision.

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: Like other world leaders here, I’m dismayed at the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement. And I’ve urged President Trump to rejoin the Paris Agreement. The U.K.’s own commitment to the Paris Agreement and tackling global climate change is as strong as ever.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Early Saturday morning, Greenpeace activists outside the G20 summit called on world leaders to raise their level of ambition beyond the Paris climate accord. Sixty-five activists from several European countries scaled the Köhlbrand Bridge in Hamburg, Germany, and displayed a gigantic banner that simply stated, quote, “End Coal.”

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, a group of environmental organizations have released a new report claiming G20 governments provide an average of $72 billion per year in public finance for fossil fuels—nearly four times as much as they provide for clean energy. The report is titled “Talk is Cheap: How G20 Governments Are Financing Climate Disaster”

For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by the report’s lead author, Alex Doukas, senior campaigner at Oil Change International.

Alex, talk about what you found.

ALEX DOUKAS: Thanks, Amy. Yeah, we found, as you mentioned, that $72 billion, on average, per year is flowing from G20 governments through their public finance institutions to support the production of oil, gas and coal. As you mentioned, that’s more—nearly four times as much as they’re providing for clean energy. And that’s on top of subsidies that they provide domestically to their domestic oil, gas and coal companies—so, for example, in the United States, all of the industry-specific tax breaks that ExxonMobil and Chevron and other oil corporations benefit from. So, on the whole, we’re talking about a huge amount of government support for fossil fuel production.

And while it’s excellent that the other G20 leaders put Donald Trump in a corner and became the G19 in standing behind the Paris Agreement, it’s not enough just to say, “We’re not Trump when it comes to climate change.” It’s not enough to simply confront his climate denial. These leaders have to act. They need to be putting their money where their mouths are.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, could you give us some specifics of how these supports work, some of the most egregious examples that you found in your report?

ALEX DOUKAS: Sure. There’s still actually public finance for coal-fired power plants. Most of the finance that we looked at in the report is international finance, so, for example, money coming from U.S. or Japanese or Chinese public finance institutions supporting coal-fired power plants around the world. We’ve also looked at oil and gas finance and found that it’s nearly half of all public finance for energy provided by G20 governments. So it dwarfs all other sources of energy in terms of the public support, especially into things like liquefied natural gas. And we’re seeing an increasing trend in this public finance and public investment in natural gas infrastructure. And the G20 government, even with Trump in their climate—the G20 leaders, even in their climate and energy action plan, with Trump, agreed that they called natural gas a clean fuel, which it certainly is not. And that’s something that we want to point out, is that these fossil fuels and public investment in fossil fuels aren’t at all consistent with the aims outlined in the Paris Agreement, which all of these G20 leaders, except for Trump, are happy to continue trumpeting.

AMY GOODMAN: Alex, I wanted to ask you about what happened after the G20 summit, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flew to Istanbul, Turkey, to receive the World Petroleum Congress’s lifetime achievement award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the oil and gas industry.

Meanwhile, Tillerson could soon be called to testify about a separate email account he used for years to discuss global warming while he served as CEO of ExxonMobil. That’s according to the Associated Press, which reports that the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is prepared to question Tillerson as part of his probe into whether Exxon misled its investors about the impact of climate change. Those separate emails, he went under a separate name, “Wayne Tracker.”

During his Senate hearing in January, Tillerson refused to answer questions about Exxon’s history of denying the science of climate change, telling senators scientific literature on climate change is, quote, “inconclusive.” He was asked about those reports by Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine.

SEN. TIM KAINE: Are these conclusions about ExxonMobil’s history of promoting and funding climate science denial, despite its internal awareness of the reality of climate change, during your tenure with the company true or false?

REX TILLERSON: Senator, since I’m no longer with ExxonMobil, I’m in no position to speak on their behalf. The question would have to be put to them.

SEN. TIM KAINE: And let me ask you: Do you lack the knowledge to answer my question, or are you refusing to answer my question?

REX TILLERSON: A little of both.

SEN. TIM KAINE: Um, I have a hard time believing you lack the knowledge to answer my question.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Tim Kaine questioning Rex Tillerson. He just received this lifetime achievement award in Turkey. And certainly, the U.S. was isolated at G20 when it came to Trump having pulled out of the climate accord. But you’re making this bigger point, Alex Doukas, that—are you saying, are the other countries any better? And if so, what countries do you think are taking the right path when it comes to climate change?

ALEX DOUKAS: Look, I think that a lot of these other countries are better in word, if not yet in deed. And that’s—it is important, but it’s also a crisis of immense proportions, and we can’t just be talking about taking climate action anymore. We have to be taking climate action. So, even Germany’s government, the host of the G20 this year, with Chancellor Merkel at the helm, has been providing more public finance to fossil fuels than to clean energy. Same with Canada. So, these are countries where, you know, Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel, they have lofty rhetoric about climate change, yet their public finance is still—the bulk of it’s still going into fossil fuels, their public energy finance, rather than to clean energy. And that’s something that needs to change immediately.

AMY GOODMAN: And the—

ALEX DOUKAS: So I wouldn’t say that they’re—sorry, go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of Tillerson possibly being subpoenaed to testify in this New York lawsuit?

ALEX DOUKAS: I think it’s very significant. And I think it will be interesting to see what comes out of that process, if he is made to testify. We’ll see—we’ll see if Wayne Tracker, or Rex Tillerson, shows up on the stand.

But I think one thing that this really highlights, both the fact that he’s been compelled to testify potentially in this case for misleading investors about the realities and risks of climate change, but also his receiving this award for lifetime achievement for his work in the petroleum industry, it really lays something bare that is often under the surface in the United States, which is that we need to separate oil and state. And this isn’t a thing that’s a problem only in the U.S. It’s a particular problem in the United States. But instead of having intermediaries, where we have, you know, lobbyists or campaign contributions to politicians from the oil, gas and coal industries, and then the subsidies flowing back from those decisionmakers to those industries, now we have the oil industry actually in charge of large parts of the United States government, including foreign policy at the State Department with Rex Tillerson. And I think that is a stark picture, and it’s something that we need to wake up and address.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, well, there have also been reports recently of the industry having an impact here at the state level in getting state governments to penalize folks who switch to solar, to solar energy, and an attempt to charge them, in effect, for being able to switch to solar energy.

ALEX DOUKAS: Well, that’s a big problem, and it’s something that we need to keep an eye on. There was some political backlash for politicians that tried to penalize homeowners for putting solar on their roofs in Nevada recently. And that’s something that I think state legislators and politicians should be aware of, that if they’re going to try and take away the ability of consumers to use cleaner energy, that there may be a penalty at the ballot box for that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Alex Doukas, we want to thank you for being with us, senior campaigner at Oil Change international, lead writer and researcher for the new report, “Talk is Cheap: How G20 Governments Are Financing Climate Disaster.” And we’ll link to it at democracynow.org.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we look at the foreign policy experience of Jared Kushner, a point person on foreign policy for his father-in-law, President Donald Trump. Stay with us.

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